The 45th Anniversary of Tibet's Bloody Rebellion Against Chinese Rule

Roundup: Talking About History

From an anonymous correspondent in Dharamsala, India, as published by the Australian(March 10, 2004):

TODAY marks the 45th anniversary of Tibet's bloody rebellion against Chinese rule that led to the exile of the Dalai Lama, who enjoys a worldwide following but can only hope that he will ever see his homeland again.

Since taking up residence in India in 1959, the Dalai Lama has toured 44 countries, been received by three US presidents and won the Nobel Peace Prize, but his travels are ritually denounced by China , which boasts it freed Tibet from a "feudal" regime.

Most residents of today's Tibet have not lived under the Dalai Lama, whose predecessors ruled as omnipotent incarnations of the Buddha, and even among the 120,000 Tibetans in exile there are grumblings that the 68-year-old monk's peaceful approach has borne little progress.

The Dalai Lama spent a week in a Bombay hospital in 2001 being treated for a bowel infection and although he has resumed his rigorous schedule, the illness forced Tibetans to contemplate a scenario without their affable public face.

"After his passing away, for the next 50 years Tibetans will not be able to bring any sort of momentum for their struggle and the Tibetan issue will be lost," says Karma Choephel, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile set up by the Dalai Lama in the north Indian hill station Dharamsala.

The Dalai Lama in 1974 appealed for Tibetan guerillas to lay down their arms after the US dropped support for them. Today he argues that a confrontational approach -- such as declaring independence -- would be suicidal against China 's military might.

But some analysts believe his strategy of seeking global pressure on China might be just as counterproductive, arguing that it was Beijing 's sensitivity about potential foreign intervention in Tibet that prompted it to send in troops in 1950.

The Chinese forces initially gave a nominal role to the young Dalai Lama, who was born Tenzin Gyatso and identified by disguised wise men as the spiritual leader's incarnation when he was two years old. But as the US-backed Khampa guerillas battled intermittently with the People's Liberation Army in eastern Tibet , tensions grew in the capital Lhasa .

On March 10, 1959, thousands of Tibetans surrounded the Norbulingka summer palace in Lhasa after rumours spread that the Chinese were plotting to abduct the Dalai Lama. While historians question whether the Chinese were planning to kidnap the Tibetan leader, then 23, he would later write that he had no choice but to flee as "there was nothing more I could do for my people if I stayed and the Chinese would certainly capture me in the end".

Trading his robes for the uniform of a common soldier, the Dalai Lama and his aides sneaked out of Lhasa on March 17 just as the revolt turned violent. On March 23, troops hoisted communist China 's flag over the Potala Palace , the 1300-year-old residence of the Dalai Lamas that towers over Lhasa .

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